74 responses to Mark Louden on Pennsylvania Dutch: The Story of an American Language (Interview & Book Giveaway) [Updated with Winner]
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    Rebecca Bontrager
    Comment on Gonzales (March 14th, 2018 at 07:18)


    I met Mark as a teenager when we lived in Texas and attended the Old Order Amish church in Gonzales, TX.
    He is like family to us!

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    Sharon Cawley-french
    Comment on Interesting (March 14th, 2018 at 07:18)


    Sounds very informative and interesting. I too am amazed at the differences.
    Have friends Amish and Old Order Mennonite.

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    Linda lichtfuss
    Comment on A True American (March 14th, 2018 at 07:22)

    A True American

    The Amish are the purest of true Americans,they have been very impressive to me and a wonder my whole life.

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    Susan Shunk
    Comment on PA Dutch, German, Swiss (March 14th, 2018 at 07:23)

    PA Dutch, German, Swiss

    Those are the family origins as,related to me by my parents.My Grandfather came to Toledo, OH from Lancaster,PA. My other relatives had beards and spoke “funny”as it sounded to me as a kid. Now I wish I could hear and learn more about what I didn’t understand. I tried to find info on the language. Visiting Ohio Amish country makes me feel at home. The language sound similar but not the same. I want to hear words said or explained.

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    Comment on Very interesting (March 14th, 2018 at 07:24)

    Very interesting

    I’d love to read this! I have picked up quite a bit over the years, as my Swartzentruber friends’ English isn’t the best, and of course the little children don’t speak it. (It can be very useful to arrive and be able to ask, “Wu ist dei Mamm? Ist sie em Haus?” Although the looks I sometimes get!)

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    Comment on love this (March 14th, 2018 at 07:26)

    love this

    I am very interested in the Amish. I read everything i can find on them. i just feel if we could all go back to the simpler ways of life, this world would be such a better place.

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    Jemima Schinnerer
    Comment on Great read (March 14th, 2018 at 07:29)

    Great read

    Thank you for posting. I have always wondered if a person who speaks German could communicate effectively in a Amish Community.

    • In answer to Jemima Schinnerer: Can Germans/ German speaker understand PA Dutch

      What an interesting article! I surely would love read the book (and might anyway whether I win a copy or not).

      Jemima: As a German ex-pat living in Ohio, I can honestly say that I have some issues understanding the local Amish. I can catch words here and there, and it is not very difficult for me to figure out written PA Dutch if I come across it (by sounding the words out in my head), but as a northern German, it poses a challenge to follow them when they talk among each other. Maybe southern Germans have less issues because PA Dutch sounds more like the southern German dialects than like the northern German Plattdeutsch, but that’s just an assumption.

  • Interesting article. I write Amish romances and find these types of articles informative.

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    Comment on Interesting (March 14th, 2018 at 07:38)


    Very interesting to learn the origins. I have read a few different books on learning the language.

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    Sue Gregory
    Comment on Question for Mark (March 14th, 2018 at 07:39)

    Question for Mark

    Thank you, very informative. My question is while our Amish friends speak English when we interact with them, do they strictly speak Dutch to each other when there are no “English” folk around?

    • Good question, Sue. Yes, Amish and other PA Dutch speakers typically use English in social settings where English-monolinguals are present, for the sake of politeness. In Amish-only settings, PA Dutch is preferred. Mark

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        Comment on Young Amish speaking among themselves (March 14th, 2018 at 12:43)

        Young Amish speaking among themselves

        I have observed and overheard some Amish young people, probably late teens or early twenties, speaking English among themselves. I think that it’s likely that some of them are working in an English environment. It may be interesting to see what happens as they grow older, marry and have children.

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    Amy Polak
    Comment on Deep history & tradition (March 14th, 2018 at 07:42)

    Deep history & tradition

    I wish more people knew the history and story of Pennsylvania Dutch (language). There is SO much for people to learn, besides the language itself. It’s not just another language, it goes much farther than that. The variations from state to state, community to community make it even more unique by many more than just the Amish.

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    Barbara Long
    Comment on question? (March 14th, 2018 at 07:53)


    Mark, would you say that the large majority of Amish (older generations) are able to speak and understand English well enough in situations like Dr. office or hospital settings? Just wondering what percentage might need an interpreter like say someone visiting our country from Spanish, French, or other foreign country.

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      Bill Arden
      Comment on An answer to "Question" (March 14th, 2018 at 08:19)

      An answer to "Question"

      Barbara, it’s interesting to note that at least one hospital system in the Lancaster PA area has added PA Dutch interpreters – see http://www.witf.org/news/2018/02/midstate-hospitals-add-interpreters-for-pennsylvania-dutch.php for more.

      • Yes, that is an important development in health care serving Amish. All Amish adults speak English and kids begin learning it when they start school, so interpreters are mainly necessary for pre-schoolers. But using PA Dutch for older kids and others can be reassuring in what are often stressful situations. It’s important to keep in mind that even English-monolinguals often have difficulty with technical language of any kind, medical, legal, etc. A few years ago I was called upon to serve as a court interpreter in a case involving a Swartzentruber Amish family. At times, I had to ask the doctor who was testifying to clarify what he meant in English before I could render it into PA Dutch.

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      John J. Keim
      Comment on Learning English (March 14th, 2018 at 08:33)

      Learning English

      Barbara Long, I grew up in the Amish community near Ashland, Ohio. When I went to school there, we were required to speak english in class every friday, all day long. That helped me a lot after I left the Amish.

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    Comment on I have also been blessed (March 14th, 2018 at 08:05)

    I have also been blessed

    When living in Indiana I was blessed that my parents had taught me German. The Amish were very welcoming. We shared our farming experiences. A Decon invited me to eat with his family, and shared his bible with me. Loved your interview. Will be looking forward to reading your book. Best wishes, Carl

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    Comment on The Story of an American Language (March 14th, 2018 at 08:09)

    The Story of an American Language

    My late father contributed quite a bit of material and communicated frequently with C. Richard Beam when he was working on his PA Dutch dictionary.

    In Ontario, Mennonites have yet another word for a wammes or rock (coat); we call it a kittel. It is interesting to note that some words are regional, with both Amish and Mennonites in Ontario using a Pa German word that is not used or used differently by both Amish and Mennonites in American communities. Other words may be used differently by Amish than by Mennonites.

    PA Dutch speaking people do speak mostly that language among themselves but it does vary between communities and even within communities. We see lots of instances where the parents speak English with each other, but Pa. Dutch to the children. They realize that they were close to losing the language so they put in efforts to keep the next generation bilingual as well.

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    Bill Arden
    Comment on This has been quite informative! (March 14th, 2018 at 08:15)

    This has been quite informative!

    I live in Mifflin County, PA, which is home to a significant Nebraska Amish community. I’ve met a few of the younger people for whom English is definitely a second language! Thanks for this discussion, Mark – it taught me a lot.

  • very interesting article. i would love to win this book to be able to educate myself further. thank you for the opportunity.

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    Bill Arden
    Comment on Forms of address (March 14th, 2018 at 08:20)

    Forms of address

    Can any of you tell me how to address an Amish man or woman? In German, I’d use Herr or Frau; what’s the corresponding form in PA Dutch?


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    Suzanne Sellner
    Comment on Fascinating (March 14th, 2018 at 08:27)


    I have always been fascinated by languages. While I majored in French and English in college, I have also taken some German and some Spanish. Several years ago my husband and I participated in a week-long program comparing the Amish and Mennonites and visited with both groups of people. I would love to read your book.

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    Joan Tuttle
    Comment on The Plain are humble, church loving people (March 14th, 2018 at 08:50)

    The Plain are humble, church loving people

    I have been interested in the Amish lifestyle ever since I can remember. I live in SW Michigan and so have been to the Indiana area many, many times. Always have the Amish been kind, thoughtful, and always willing to answer questions when I have any. Their lifestyle and language is also very interesting to me as they have Gemanic reading and singing. May God bless each and every one of the Amish always.

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    Comment on PA Dutch Dictionary (March 14th, 2018 at 08:59)

    PA Dutch Dictionary

    Hi, I love reading about the Amish and have visited Holmes and Wayne counties in Ohio many times. I looked for a PA Dutch/English dictionary several years ago in a bookstore in Berlin, Ohio, but couldn’t find one. In the many Amish Christian books I have read the authors usually put a translation section in the front or back for PA Dutch words they sprinkle throughout the book, but I would love a basic grammar/conjugation guide. I have a small lomgarm quilting business I have named The Quilting Frolic in honor of the Amish tradition of working together and making it an occasion for fun. (Not advertising myself, just sayin’). Another thing I admire is their sense of community and that they stay close to their extended family, whereas I have cousins, aunts, and uncles I haven’t seen in years. I would love an Amish pen pal but don’t know if that is allowed. Thanks for a great article!

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    Comment on Many Thanks (March 14th, 2018 at 09:02)

    Many Thanks

    Thank you do much for this interview. The book sounds very interesting indeed! While not a member, I grew up in a Old German Baptist Brethren district. My many GB friends and neighbors had a profound influence on my life. As a result, I find many answers to life’s questions in “plain” living.

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    Ron Cornelius
    Comment on Enlightening! (March 14th, 2018 at 09:09)


    While my paternal ancestors came from Berks County, I have been fascinated by the development of languages and dialects in the United States. Southern Appalachia has its own story and it’s interesting to see the how speech evolves from area to area as populations move. I look forward to reading Mr.Laudon’s book.

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    Comment on Wow! (March 14th, 2018 at 09:11)


    Mark Louden’s review of PA Dutch is wonderfully comprehensive and easy to read, a must for anyone visiting or living near the Amish, as we do. My wife’s grandmother was Amish, many of our relatives are Mennonite, and I’ve referred to many of these people and ideas on my website: http://e-gen.info .

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    Judy Bernegger
    Comment on Swiss German (March 14th, 2018 at 09:14)

    Swiss German

    Years ago we were in Lancaster, PA. My Swiss husband was able to understand everything spoken by the Amish, and they understood him as well. I have lived in Switzerland for the last 10 years, and find that Swiss German is much easier to understand than High German. It sounds a lot closer to English and the grammar is easier. About 5 years ago, I remember coming across a video on youtube with an older Amish lady singing a song her father had taught her. She is singing in Swiss German. Here is the link for her video. It is very sweet. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=kIC0TaYHu-Y

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    Jan A.
    Comment on PA Dutch (March 14th, 2018 at 09:26)

    PA Dutch

    My paternal grandfather who affiliated as a Methodist unfortunately died when I was a young girl. He used to tease me and tell me that we were Pennsylvania Dutch, and then would speak just a few words that must have been PA Dutch and say what it meant, but I cannot remember them at all. I thought we were Dutch, as in Holland. As I grew up, I learned what he meant was he came from Amish-Mennonite heritage. I wish he had lived long enough to ask him about his upbringing. My great grandmother, who I remember and have pictures of, dressed as a very Old Order Amish woman, but I still do not know if she was Amish or Amish-Mennonite. People sometimes don’t realize how important it is to talk about their heritage and pass it on.

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    Christine McMahon-Chase
    Comment on Mark Louden on Penn Dutch (March 14th, 2018 at 09:53)

    Mark Louden on Penn Dutch

    Thank you for sharing. I always learn so much with these posts! 🙂

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    Montsweag Adams
    Comment on The Story of an American Language (March 14th, 2018 at 10:02)

    The Story of an American Language

    Very interesting article and a book worth reading, especially if you interact with the Amish. I live in a midcoast community in Maine that has seen the arrival of a dozen Amish families over the last year and they are Swartzentrubers. Our young Amish neighbors are very nice and friendly and fluent in English. It is wonderful to see these folks come and help preserve the nature of this rural farming community.

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    Steve Myers
    Comment on The Story of an American Language (March 14th, 2018 at 10:04)

    The Story of an American Language

    I found Mark’s interview fascinating and both educational and informative. It brings clarity to understanding the foundational language and the variants in each order. Although an avid follower of the Amish, I did not know their schools taught in English. It did bring up a similar instance of language when I attended prep school. We were required to speak Latin at recess!

    Thanks for this great interview. It would be great to do more of these.

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    Derek S.
    Comment on And there are others too (March 14th, 2018 at 10:08)

    And there are others too

    I never realized that there are other non-Amish who speak the language on a regular basis.

    Very interesting.


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    Alex Knisely
    Comment on Glad to learn -- (March 14th, 2018 at 10:15)

    Glad to learn --

    — that US academia has a spot for you and your work.

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    Comment on Happy to Read and Learn (March 14th, 2018 at 10:55)

    Happy to Read and Learn

    This is a most interesting epistle to read and learn about the differences in dialects and German.
    I hail from Vienna, Austria so German is not new to me. PA Dutch is. My Mennonite brethren have an occasional Dutch or German speaker among them. I find simple German explains most of the differences.

    I love to read these types of articles.

  • Very interesting reading as, I am sure, the book would be also. Please enter me in the drawing. I have enjoyed visiting different Amish areas over the years and enjoy talking with the Amish folks. I have met some very nice folks and been fortunate enough to be invited to their home. We have visited them several times and always enjoy great conversation and fellowship.

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    Comment on No scientific differentiation? (March 14th, 2018 at 11:13)

    No scientific differentiation?

    This is a fascinating subject indeed! I stumbled over one thing though: Back in the day when I studied German at the university, we were taught that there is a scientific differentiation between standard and dialect: If the dialect was sufficient to meet the needs of a speaker in all areas of (verbal) life, both orally and written, it would be considered a dialect no longer (and hence was eligible for protection status if spoken by a minority, such a Saterfriesisch in northern Germany/ the norther Netherlands). If, on the other hand, the speaker had to revert to the standard language in order to express himself in certain areas of life (business, science etc.), the dialect was a true dialect. Now I am wondering if in the years between my studies in the 1990s and today, things have changed in this regard.

    • Well, in a lot of college courses, answers to complex questions can be oversimplified. Going back to the beginnings of modern linguistic science, which emerged in the late nineteenth century, linguists have recognized that the labels attached to what people speak are not definable according to clear-cut criteria. Here is a link to a really well written article by a linguist at Columbia University, John McWhorter, on the language/dialect distinction: https://www.theatlantic.com/international/archive/2016/01/difference-between-language-dialect/424704/.

      • Thank you for the link, interesting indeed.
        Back in the day, the course revolved around the plight of “dying” languages that could not get support to assist their upkeep because they weren’t actually considered languages, but “only” dialects. Of course, the concern was that with the language/dialect, the identity of the people who spoke it would also fade away.
        Maybe the definition that was taught in this context was something to be considered in a court of law, rather than among linguists proper.

        • You’ve put your finger on something very important. Language endangerment is a very timely topic still today. Of the roughly 7,000 languages in the world, the vast majority are spoken by small minority populations (like PA Dutch). And the sad prediction is that at least half of these languages will have lost their native speakers by the turn of the next century. It is definitely true that when a linguistic variety is officially recognized as a “language,” its chances of receiving some kind of official support from governments are increased. In Europe, there is an official treaty called the European Charter for Regional and Minority Languages, whose aim is to support endangered languages within Europe. Against the grim backdrop of global language endangerment, the success of PA Dutch is even more striking. This is a language spoken by a very small (but growing) population; it has limited official recognition and no governmental support to speak of; most of its speakers don’t read or write it; and it has never been regarded by outsiders (and not a few insiders) with much respect. And here it is, thriving in the middle of an overwhelmingly English-speaking society!

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    Comment on Informative! (March 14th, 2018 at 11:48)


    Thanks for sharing this! I had heard some people say their ancestors were ” Pennsylvania Dutch” from Pennsylvania but not Amish and I wondered what that meant. Now I think I know. 🙂

    Also, Mark, hello from the Penn Yan area! I wonder, in Wisconsin have you ever gotten to know any Amish churches in the area of Markesan and Cambria?

    • Hello, Jan! Funny you should mention it, I am headed to that community tomorrow. It’s known as the Kingston settlement, which is the second largest in WI (after Cashton). I’m on a newly formed board of mainly Amish folks that works on advocacy for the B&W treatment protocol for burns and severe wounds. The chair of the committee is a close friend of mine in Kingston. Greetings back to Yates County!

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        Comment on Wisconsin (March 14th, 2018 at 13:25)


        Wow! Yes, my friend helps with that burn treatment center. They were going to move to Lengby, Minnesota, but I haven’t heard from her in a while and I moved, myself, so I’m really hoping we didn’t lose contact… I would love to know more about that settlement but haven’t been able to find much online. Thank you for the reply! Enjoy your trip tomorrow. If you see a Rachel and Wilbur, please tell them Jan will try writing again soon. 🙂

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    Brenda Simmons
    Comment on Interesting people and language (March 14th, 2018 at 11:49)

    Interesting people and language

    I enjoy reading anything on the Amish people. Being raised in York County PA I am very interested in hearing more. My grandfather could speak PA Dutch as he called it. I sure hope I win this book.

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    Terry Berger
    Comment on Terry Berger (March 14th, 2018 at 12:21)

    Terry Berger

    As a native speaker I would be very interested in a copy of this book. It’s always interesting to hear another perspective on our language and culture.

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    Comment on PA Dutch was my first language (March 14th, 2018 at 12:23)

    PA Dutch was my first language

    I enjoyed Mark’s interview and comments about PA Dutch. I grew up in Holmes Co. Ohio with PA Dutch as my first language. But now, living in Vermont, I seldom have the opportunity to speak it. I found PA Dutch vocabulary and sentence structure very useful in the study of German in college.

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    Alice Mary
    Comment on Intrigued (March 14th, 2018 at 12:40)


    Languages are amazing, and other than English (American version), always are a challenge to me. Growing up in a Polish/German/Spanish-speaking neighborhood (and having taken 2 yrs. of French in high school), I only understand a few words of each language. At my age (65+), I doubt I could successfully learn ANY new language. PA Dutch, I’m afraid, might as well be Greek to me (apologies to my good friend of Greek ancestry and her family both here and in the Old Country)!

    Thank you for the opportunity to win a copy of your book, Mr. Louden.

    Alice Mary (from Illinois)

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    Shawna Pemberton
    Comment on Love the Simplicity (March 14th, 2018 at 13:01)

    Love the Simplicity

    I have been a fan of the Amish and Mennonites for as long as I can remember. I have 4 rows of Amish writers on my bookshelf at home. I love the simplicity of their lifestyle and the way they all come together as a community and help each other. No one feels lonely there! I look forward to being able to read this book.

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    Comment on Hooray for multilingualism! (March 14th, 2018 at 13:17)

    Hooray for multilingualism!

    I would love to win a copy of this book! I’ve always wanted to learn Pennsylvania Dutch (and “Swiss”, for that matter), and learning about it is also very interesting. Thank you, Mark, for the link to deitshbooks.com. I’m looking forward to giving them some of my business.

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    Jenny Propst
    Comment on Mark's Q&A (March 14th, 2018 at 13:41)

    Mark's Q&A

    Since I, my sisters and brother were children my mom has told us that her grandfather, our great grandfather knew some PA Dutch and he a little jingle that he would sing but he wouldn’t tell the children what it meant she has always thought it was because it wasn’t for little ears. I always thought it was our native language from Germany which is one country that some of my family came from. I was so interested in what you had to say about the PA Dutch because when I found out it was the Amish native language Mark I wondered about my great grandfather knowing some of it. Your article was great and informative. I would like to read the book. I love finding out the Amish. I admire them and especially how they have kept to their ways as much as possible after three hundred years. They appear to be the only group left that have.

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    Jenny Propst
    Comment on The Q&A very informative (March 14th, 2018 at 14:06)

    The Q&A very informative

    Since I, my sisters and brother were children my mom has told us us about her grandfather knowing some PA Dutch and he had a little jingle that he would sing but he wouldn’t tell the children what it meant she has always thought it wasn’t for little ears. I always thought it was our native language from Germany which is one country that some of my family came from. I was so interested in what you had to say about the PA Dutch because when I found out it was the Amish native language Mark I wondered about my great grandfather knowing some of it. Your article was great and informative. I was so interested in what you had to say about the PA Dutch because when I found out it was the Amish native language Mark I wondered about my great grandfather knowing some of it. Your article was great and informative. I would like to read the book. I love finding out about the Amish. I admire them and especially how they have kept to their ways as much as possible after three hundred years. They appear to be the only group left that has.

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    Comment on Evansville/Albany Amish (March 14th, 2018 at 14:20)

    Evansville/Albany Amish

    Hi Mark,

    I grew up in Evansville, Wisconsin (just south of Madison) and we had several Amish families living nearby. Always enjoyed seeing them at the grocery stores, etc. Wonder if there are still Amish living near there?

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    Comment on Great article! (March 14th, 2018 at 14:51)

    Great article!

    I was raised near Aylmer, Ontario, Canada (where I acquired an interest in the Amish) and Dutch (Nederlands, not PA!) was my first language since I was born in the Netherlands. At school I took German for 3 years. I love languages & since retirement I have been trying to learn more languages: my wife & I spent 3 weeks In South Africa a few years ago and I have acquired a working knowledge of Afrikaans. Currently I am taking classes in Yiddish.
    Thanks for a fascinating article!
    If I don’t win Dr. Louden’s book, I definitely want to get a copy! When is the draw?
    I would also be interested in finding out where I could get songs in Pennsylvania Dutch, since I love to sing and play different musical instruments. In addition to the words, I would like the melodies along with the chords.
    Thanks once again for a great article!

  • I have always been fascinated with the Amish ways of life and I love learning more about them every chance I get. This book sounds like a wonderful read that will help me to better understand them.

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    Steve Hansen
    Comment on thanks (March 14th, 2018 at 17:21)


    Hi Erik,
    Thanks for the interview with Mark Louden and the blog in general. I appreciate your work in presenting a balanced and nuanced view of the Amish in America. I’m a lurker via RSS subscription, but I can’t resist the chance at the book!

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    Jim Baird
    Comment on Useful Scholarship (March 14th, 2018 at 17:54)

    Useful Scholarship

    With all the odd stuff that’s published by the Academy, it’s refreshing to see a book that’s useful for those of us tracing our German ancestors.

    Warmest Regards,


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    Comment on I enjoyed the article (March 14th, 2018 at 18:19)

    I enjoyed the article

    I grew up speaking PA Dutch but by the time I started to school I was able to speak the English language. In the community I live a lot of the Amish people have jobs that they interact with people all day long that do not speak PA Dutch. For that reason I often hear them in conversations when everybody can speak PA Dutch but they are speaking English.

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    Lynn Maniscalco
    Comment on the explanation (March 14th, 2018 at 18:36)

    the explanation

    I always wondered why all of my non-Amish grandparents spoke Pa Dutch. Thanks for explaining that it is common among Lutheran farm folk in Lehigh Co. That is who they were, here for generations, all with with German surnames.

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    Diane Sattazahn
    Comment on Lebanon Co. was once part of Lancaster Co., PA (March 14th, 2018 at 18:52)

    Lebanon Co. was once part of Lancaster Co., PA

    This is where my mother grew up. She is 92 years old and has come down from the German speaking Swiss who came here in the 1700’s.When I read your article, I realized I could reap more information from your book to share with my mother.Thank you for your research. There is so much to learn from this people group and their way of life.

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